Uneasy Allies: Sino-American Relations at the Grassroots, 1940–1949

The largest sustained engagement between Americans and Chinese that ever occurred in China took place during the 1940s. During this period, individual American and Chinese soldiers, scientists, nurses, and truck drivers, among many others, came together to collaborate in the fight against Japan. These interactions had a resonating impact: shaping popular perceptions of China and the United States, impacting the development of new and powerful institutions, and creating new markets and demands that would transform both countries and indeed much of East Asia. Yet, we know surprisingly little about these important grassroots interactions between Americans and Chinese. This conference, Sino-American Relations at the Grassroots, is an attempt to shine a direct light on the interactions between Americans and Chinese at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum in the 1940s. Focusing on grassroots perspectives rather than elite politics enables us to explore a wide range of Sino-American encounters during this period, from interaction between ordinary American servicemen and Chinese civilians to the trans-Pacific material exchange of American industrial goods for Chinese raw materials. Other themes include transnational disease control, intelligence and scientific collaboration, educational exchange, and the subjective experience of war. In addition to discussing current research, we plan to outline a framework for further study on the 1940s.


Mary Augusta Brazelton, University Lecturer, University of Cambridge

Du Chunmei, associate professor of Chinese history at Lingnan University.

Zach Fredman, assistant professor of history at Duke Kunshan University.

Judd Kinzley, associate professor of Chinese history at University of Wisconsin Madison.

Li Wankun, Ph.D. candidate at the School of History, University of Leeds.

Covell Meyskens, assistant professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Jack Neubauer, Ph.D. candidate in history at Columbia University.

Ren Ke, assistant professor of Chinese history at Holy Cross.

Linh Vu, assistant professor of Chinese history at Arizona State University.

Xiao Ruping, professor of modern Chinese history at Zhejiang University.

Yang Zhiguo, Department Chair and professor of history at University of Wisconsin River Falls.

Zheng Yanqiu, assistant professor of Chinese history at Misericordia University.

Zhang Ruisheng, Ph.D. candidate in history at Purdue University.


*All events in Room 1095, Conference Center, Duke Kunshan University except where noted.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

1900-2100    Cocktail Reception, Hamburger Bar, Kunshan Crowne Plaza

Friday, July 12, 2019

0730-0900  Breakfast at the Kunshan Crowne Plaza

0915   Shuttle departs from Crowne Plaza to Duke Kunshan University

1000-1200    Panel One: Soldiers

Du Chunmei, “Jeep Girls and American Servicemen in Post-World War II China.”

Zach Fredman, “Looting Taiwan: The American Civil Affairs Officer and the Missing Japanese Army Gold.”

Linh Vu, “Corporeal Sovereignty: Bones, Burials, and the Biopolitics of the Sino-American Alliance.

1200-1315   Lunch, Executive Dining Hall

1330-1545  Panel Two: Students and Activists

Jack Neubauer, “Intimate Diplomacy: Humanitarianism and Sino-American Relations in the 1940s.”

Ren Ke, “American Pacifists and the War in China, 1937–1941.”

Yang Zhiguo, “US Marines and Student Protest in Qingdao, 1945–1949.”

Zheng Yanqiu, “Effective in a Small Wat: The China Institute in American and the Student Turn in Sino-U.S. Relations in the 1940s.”

1545-1615   Snack Break

1645-1800  Pre-Dinner Drinks, Jim’s Bar

1815-2000  Dinner at Dayu Haitang Restaurant

2015    Shuttle departs from CC Lobby to Kunshan Crowne Plaza Hotel

Saturday, July 13, 2019

0900   Shuttle departs from Crowne Plaza to Duke Kunshan University

0945-1145   Panel Three: Traders and Diplomats

Judd Kinzley, “Chinese Feathers and the American War Effort: Constructing a Global Resource Regime, 1941–1945.”

Li Wankun, “Chinese Oil and the Global War: The Transformation of the Wartime Economy to the Planned Economy in Chongqing, 1937–1953.”

Xiao Ruping, “危局中的政治选择:顾维钧与1949.”

1145-1300   Lunch, Executive Dining Hall

1315-1515    Panel Four: Technicians   

Mary Augusta Brazelton, “Technologies of Civil Aviation and Sino-American Relations, 1930–1949.”

Covell Meyskens, “Hydraulic Dreams: Chinese and American Planning for the Three Gorges Dam, 1920–1949.”

Zhang Ruisheng, “Cultivating Red China’s Agricultural Engineers: Research on the Cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the International Harvester Company.”

1530-1600   Snack Break

1600-1800   Plenary Session: Next Steps

1815    Shuttle departs from AB Lobby to Jiangnan Shouxi

1845-2030   Dinner at Jiangnan Shouxi

2040   Shuttle departs Jiangnan Shouxi for Crowne Plaza